Young woman with a laptop learning about common causes of vaginal burning and treatments

Common Causes of Vaginal Burning and Treatments

Medically reviewed on May 17, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Vaginal burning is one unwelcome health symptom with many possible causes. Explanations of causes range from treatments that are easily resolved, like swapping out your household’s laundry detergent, to more stubborn treatments, like contending with a urinary tract infection (UTI).

While the possible explanations for vaginal burning can feel overwhelming, it’s important not to ignore uncomfortable sensations around your sexual anatomy. In some cases, vaginal burning can be an early sign of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or other infections that can pose higher health risks if left untreated.

If you’ve noticed vaginal burning that persists, it’s important to stay apprised of the symptom and the possible root causes. Below, some of the most common reasons why people experience vaginal burning are detailed so that you can begin a course of treatment to find relief.

1. Bacterial Vaginosis

Is bacterial vaginosis a sexually transmitted disease? Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the single most prevalent vaginal infection in reproductive-aged women. [1] However, it is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Instead, it affects the balance of bacteria in the vagina, where certain strains grow out of proportion to others. [1]

In addition to vaginal burning, BV can cause symptoms like: [2]

  • In some cases, an itchy sensation during urination
  • Vaginal discharge, which can appear whiter or grayer in hue
  • Vaginal odor

It’s also possible to have BV with no observable symptoms. [2]

Treatment Options for Bacterial Vaginosis

Taking antibiotics, using an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control, and/or having unprotected sex can all lead to BV. [2] If your healthcare provider diagnoses you with BV, they may prescribe a round of antibiotics—typically oral antibiotics or a gel or cream—to correct the bacterial imbalance. [1]

2. Chemical Irritants

  • Bath soap or body wash
  • Body lotion or sprays
  • Douches
  • Laundry detergent
  • Perfumed sanitary napkins or soft paper goods

Similarly, tight-fitting underwear, leggings, or hosiery can be abrasive to the genital area. This may lead to a burning feeling. However, you can easily relieve this burning sensation by retiring the item and allowing the affected area to heal.

Treatment Options for Chemical Irritation

The best way to relieve vaginal burning from chemical irritants is to stop using the product that brought it on. If you’re unsure which self-care or household product might be responsible, try removing all potential irritants from your routine and re-introducing them one at a time to see how the genital area responds.

3. UTI

A burning or vaginal itching sensation is one of the most apparent symptoms associated with a UTI, or urinary tract infection. However, this typically affects the urethra—the passageway for urine located inside the vagina.

UTIs most commonly affect the urethra and also the bladder. Other symptoms that can accompany a UTI include: [3]

  • A sense of pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Feeling the need to urinate with increased frequency
  • Mild fever, dizziness, or fatigue
  • Urine that appears murky, has a rust color, or carries an odor

Treatment Options for a UTI

UTIs are relatively common, but they’re nevertheless important to treat. If left undiagnosed or unaddressed, the infection can venture further into the urinary system and affect the ureters or kidneys.

If you identify a burning sensation near your urethra, contact your healthcare provider. Depending on their assessment, they may prescribe a round of antibiotics or let the infection heal on its own.

4. Yeast Infection

A “yeast” infection is the informal term for Candida, a type of fungus that can occur in the vagina. [4] Yeast infections are quite common and are estimated to affect as many as 75% of women in their lifetimes.5 However, there are certain reasons why you may be more susceptible to them, including: [6]

  • Being pregnant
  • Depressed immune function
  • Excessive use of antibiotics
  • Hormone therapy
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Sexual activity, especially oral sex or engaging in sex for the first time

If you have a yeast infection, you may also notice swelling, soreness, or a rash around the vagina. [6] This is because an overgrowth of Candida can result in vaginitis, which is an inflammation response affecting the vagina. [7]

Treatment Options for a Yeast Infection

Treatments for yeast infections depend on the severity and (if applicable) recurrence of the infection. The most common treatment options include: [6]

  • Antifungal medicines – A healthcare provider may recommend a topical antibiotic, like a cream or an ointment, to clear up a yeast infection. Typically, you’d apply the antibiotic for three days to one week to promote recovery. The most common medications for yeast infections are miconazole and terconazole.
  • Fluconazole (oral route) – As a more aggressive approach to treating yeast infections, a healthcare provider may prescribe one or two doses of fluconazole. This is an oral medication that’s not suitable for pregnant women or people with mild cases of Candida.

Boric acid is another modality for treating yeast infections. However, this is only prescribed for infections that occur multiple times within a few months or that demonstrate resistance to antifungal agents. Due to its potential toxicity, it may only be administered via the vagina (never orally) and under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

5. Going Through Menopause

Hot flashes, inconsistent moods, and amenorrhea (the cessation of a period) are all well-known symptoms of menopause, but vaginal burning can accompany this stage of life, too. [8]

Most people going through menopause only notice vaginal burning when engaging in sexual activity. [8] It’s likely caused by vaginal dryness, which can lead to friction and chaffing around the genitals. [8]

Treatment Options During Menopause

It’s important to recognize that vaginal dryness and burning can be a non-pathological side effect of menopause—a normal, healthy stage of life. [8] To relieve these symptoms, a healthcare provider might recommend: [8]

  • A water-based lubricant to use before having penetrative sex. Limiting the use of oil or silicone-containing lubricants can help you avoid chemicals that may irritate the vagina.
  • Prescription hormones, locally administered via a ring, cream, or oral medication. These emit a low dose of estrogen directly into the vagina, which may help to restore vaginal moisture.
  • Non-hormonal medication, specifically ospemifene (oral route) or the steroid prasterone (vaginal route).9, 10 Like prescription hormones, these medications mimic the effects of estrogen, working against dryness to minimize pain during sex.

6. STDs/STIs

Several STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) can be accompanied by vaginal burning. These include:

  • HPV, or human papillomavirus, the single most common sexually transmitted infection. Some strains of HPV cause genital warts and may be accompanied by a burning sensation around the vagina.

    Other symptoms include:

    • Bleeding
    • Itchiness
    • Rough skin around the genitals
  • Gonorrhea, a bacterial infection. In its early stages, gonorrhea in women and those assigned female at birth (AFAB) may appear with no observable symptoms (including vaginal burning). In more advanced cases, you may notice: [8]
    • A burning sensation during urination
    • Higher-than-normal amounts of vaginal discharge
    • Spotting between symptoms
  • Trichomoniasis is a parasitic infection.12 Like people with gonorrhea, people who contract “trich” may be asymptomatic. Symptoms include: [12]
    • Burning or irritation around the vagina
    • Excessive vaginal discharge, or discharge that appears off-color or carries an odor
    • Pain or discomfort during urination
  • Chlamydia is a bacterial infection, which is most predominant in reproductive-aged women.13 Some people who contract chlamydia do not exhibit symptoms, while others experience: [13]
    • Dyspareunia (pain during sex)
    • Excessive vaginal discharge
    • Pain during urination
    • Spotting between menstrual cycles
  • Genital herpes is a viral infection. Many people with genital herpes experience mild or no symptoms. [14] If you exhibit symptoms, you may notice: [14]
    • Burning around the genitals
    • Excessive vaginal discharge
    • Pain during urination
    • The appearance of bumps around the genitals

Some people have a more severe reaction when they first contract herpes.14 These reactions can include a persistent headache, fever, chills or body aches, and other flu-like symptoms. [13]

Treatment Options for STDs/STIs

Some STDs aren’t reversible, while others are treatable and even curable. If you’re sexually active, it’s important to screen for STDs regularly. This can help identify any new infections that may exhibit no symptoms, and prevent the advancement of any existing infections you might have. If an STD goes undiagnosed or untreated, it can progress and may cause more severe adverse health effects.

Curable STDs include:

  • Gonorrhea – Gonorrhea requires antibiotic medication to treat.15 People who have been infected with gonorrhea are advised to get tested three months after fulfilling their medication protocol. [11]
  • Trichomoniasis – The recommended treatment for trichomoniasis is oral antibiotics. [16] These are administered in either one large dose or in several smaller doses. [16] If you’re partnered, your sexual partner will also need to undergo treatment to prevent reinfection.16 Avoid having sexual intercourse while undergoing treatment to avoid passing the infection on to others. [16]
  • Chlamydia – For most people, oral antibiotics can cure chlamydia. [17] While undergoing treatment, it’s important to abstain from sex to prevent partners from contracting the infection. [17] Reinfection rates are high for people who’ve contracted chlamydia, so it’s also critical you complete your treatment protocol. If reinfected multiple times, chlamydia can result in severe complications, like pelvic inflammatory disease. [17]

There is currently no cure for HPV or genital herpes, but you can manage these conditions with careful treatment, such as: [18,19]

  • HPV – Genital warts are the primary irritant that leads to genital burning with HPV. You can treat warts with: [18]
    • Salicylic acid, an over-the-counter medicine that can help clear up genital warts
    • Podofilox, a prescription medicine that’s topically applied to warts. This medication works by breaking down the tough skin of the warts, though it can lead to more burning or irritation directly after application. [18]
    • Imiquimod, a prescription ointment that can help boost the immune system’s ability to relieve warts naturally. However, this medicine may also result in more irritation upon application. [18]
  • Genital herpes – Herpes is most commonly treated with oral antiviral medication. 19 Combatting the virus may assist with the symptoms it causes, including a burning sensation. Over time, it can also alleviate the appearance of warts and lessen the severity and frequency of outbreaks. [19]

Everlywell: Keep Up with Your Sexual Health Conveniently

Noticing something feels “off” with your sexual health can be understandably alarming. Reproductive health conditions aren’t widely discussed, and learning more about them can be one of the most effective ways of keeping your health in check.

If you’ve been experiencing vaginal burning or related symptoms, speak with a healthcare provider through Everlywell. Through our telehealth services, you can get online STI treatment for prevalent STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and more.We also offer specific online women's health visits so you can meet with an experienced provider who understands your concerns.

Book an virtual health visit today to receive a diagnosis and treatment.

Is Bacterial Vaginosis an STD?

Can a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Go Away On Its Own?

What Antibiotics Treat Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?


  1. Bacterial vaginosis. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. URL. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  2. What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis (BV)? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. URL. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  3. Urinary tract infections | UTI | UTI symptoms. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  4. What causes vaginitis? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. URL. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  5. Vaginitis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published December 22, 2021. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  6. Yeast infection (vaginal). Mayo Clinic. URL. Published January 11, 2023. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  7. Sex and menopause: Treatment for symptoms. National Institute on Aging. URL. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  8. Ospemifene (oral route) side effects. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published February 1, 2023. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  9. Prasterone (vaginal route) side effects. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published February 1, 2023. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  10. Std facts - gonorrhea. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published August 22, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  11. Std Facts - Trichomoniasis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published April 25, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  12. Chlamydia trachomatis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published April 14, 2023. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  13. Genital herpes. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published November 22, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  14. Gonorrhea. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published April 14, 2023. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  15. Trichomoniasis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published May 17, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  16. CDC – Chlamydia treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published July 22, 2021. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  17. HPV infection. Mayo Clinic. URL Published October 12, 2021. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  18. Genital herpes. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published November 22, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2023.
  19. Genital herpes - Diagnosis and treatment. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed May 5, 2023. Published 2017.
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